SAP Business One on the Road

Experts and academics all agree that a permanent link between IT systems and mobile terminals improves the supply of information within companies. Field employees can feed internal information and decisions into company ERP systems using mobile technologies and receive up-to-the-minute company information on the same equipment. And SAP has already developed a comprehensive range of mobile solutions in the form of mySAP Mobile Business to help businesses get underway.

SMBs succumbing to mobile technologies

“Mobile solutions are still underrepresented at present, especially in smaller businesses,” says Roland Heun, SAP Business One Product Manager at T-Systems. “Yet, this sector in particular, where a large number of processes are still paper-based, is ideal for implementing cost-effective corporate software like SAP Business One in conjunction with mobile solutions.” Heun sees the midmarket space as “a fast-growing market” and gives several reasons why. First, prices for the hardware required, like MDAs and PDAs, are falling all the time, while the equipment itself is offering improved functionality and user-friendliness. Second, mobile applications enable midmarket companies to achieve faster, more streamlined processes, which in turn boosts their flexibility.
The fact that mobile applications are becoming increasingly important for small and midsize businesses is confirmed by studies such as “E-Business im bundesdeutschen Mittelstand 2004” (E-business in the German midmarket Sector 2004) carried out by Techconsult in 2004 for IBM and “impulse” magazine. And an ECC-Handel survey of mainly smaller companies (with fewer than 100 employees) conducted early 2005 came to similar results, noting that interest in mobile technologies among these businesses is set to grow over the coming two years.

Direct link to customers

Heun has noticed that mobile applications in conjunction with SAP Business One are increasingly appealing to small and midsize businesses across all industries. “That’s why we developed Mobile One, an application for MDAs that enables field staff to fully leverage the CRM functionalities in the SAP midmarket software,” he says. Staff who are on the road a lot of the time receive orders with all relevant data sent directly from SAP Business One at company HQ to their mobile client. Conversely, field staff can enter critical business data, e.g. relating to customers, order status, etc., directly into the mobile terminal and, after synchronizing it, transfer the information to the SAP midmarket solution directly. Heun uses a concrete mobile scenario to highlight the benefits of his company’s mobile solution for SAP Business One.
If a member of staff in the field has an appointment with a customer, he can utilize Mobile One to call up the quotation mask from SAP Business One on his MDA during the discussion and enter the requisite details, such as order quantity, delivery conditions, delivery date and price. He sends the data to SAP Business One at the touch of a button where it is then processed. Finally, the SAP midmarket software automatically generates an e-mail to the customer who will receive the jointly prepared quote in his inbox. As data and information are entered only once, companies can save time and improve processes. “Staff in the field always have SAP Business One at hand, guaranteeing a direct link to customers,” says Heun.
“We have essentially adapted the MDA’s graphical user interface to that of the SAP midmarket solution in its most recent version to ensure familiar ease-of-operation for users,” says Heun. “And we are also gradually adapting buttons and design details to SAP Business One.” T-Systems offers SAP Business One and Mobile One as an in-house installation or for leasing as an on-demand service from the data center. The latter option gives midmarket companies the benefit of avoiding costs for licenses, networks, customizing and the purchase of MDAs and PDAs.

Qualified information – any time, anywhere

Stephan Putro, Product Manager for SAP Business One at SAP Sales and Service Partner Unirez Informations-Technologie, said the response from midmarket organizations to mobile applications for SAP Business One at CeBIT 2005 was overwhelmingly positive. The company, based in Detmold, Germany, unveiled its SAP Business One Mobil mobile add-on solution at the IT trade fair. “Our solution gives users direct online access to key business processes, such as business contacts, quotations, order data, stock levels and price lists, when they’re out on the road,” says Putro.
In addition to speed and flexibility, Putro sees the real value of mobile data access as being the significantly improved quality of information it offers. This benefits field staff in particular who have up-to-the-minute data from SAP Business One, such as unpaid invoices, on their PDA when they are on their way to visit a customer. “A common problem associated with having service staff working in the field is making time recording more effective,” says Putro. Generally, the working time is noted on a form when on site at the customer’s and the data entered into the IT system manually later on. This can, however, lead to duplicate records and information being lost. If a service technician can enter this information immediately in a mask on a mobile device and send it off there and then, this improves the quality of information significantly and cuts transaction costs. Conversely, in the event of unforeseen faults, the service HQ can determine the location of a service technician using GPS (global positioning system) and send him the necessary data relating to the customer and the problem in question.
According to Putro, mobile access means midmarket enterprises that provide services like servicing and maintenance, inspect security systems and manage drinks and cigarette machines have all the data relating to their operations from SAP Business One at hand “anywhere, any time”.

Competitive edge for midmarket enterprises

Midmarket companies who replace paper-based processes with direct, i.e. mobile, data capture on-site improve their database (preparation, information at the customer’s, no redundancy), avoid system and communication changes and cut the time taken for feedback and billing processes (i.e. accounts receivable requests are reduced). “By connecting mobile terminals like PDAs, cell phones and laptops to the company IT, processes can be handled completely electronically, avoiding all previous media changes,” says a Berlecon report entitled “Prozesse optimieren mit Mobile Solutions” (Optimizing Processes with Mobile Solutions), summarizing the benefits of mobile corporate solutions. Workflows are simplified and customer service improved as field staff are able to do their jobs better. This in turns leads to lower costs and increased productivity. “Midmarket organizations that make strategic and full use of mobile technologies in conjunction with SAP Business One will gain a significant competitive edge,” agree both Roland Heun and Stephan Putro in conclusion.

Dr. Andreas Schaffry
Dr. Andreas Schaffry